The NBA schedule makers wasted no time reuniting Philadelphia 76ers head coach Nick Nurse with his old club. Two nights after dropping their opener by a single point in Milwaukee, the Sixers are heading north of the border to take on the Raptors. The Sixers have certainly had a couple noteworthy moments in this building in recent years. On the down side, the four bounces that changed history. On a more positive note, Joel Embiid’s game-winner in Game 3 of the 2022 first round.
In more modern times, Toronto, under new head coach Darko Rajakovic, won its opener on Wednesday against Minnesota, 97-94. 2023 FIBA World Cup MVP Dennis Schroder paced the Raptors in scoring with 22 points, with the Sixers’ top signing in 2024 free agency, OG Anunoby, scoring 20. Toronto then lost in overtime, 104-103, to the Bulls in Chicago last night, thanks to Alex Caruso’s three-pointer with seconds remaining. Scottie Barnes paced the Raptors with 22 points in the defeat. The Sixers will certainly not mind the rest advantage coming into tonight’s contest, with Toronto playing the tail end of the back-to-back and having had to play the extra five minutes.
In addition to scouting Anunoby for next summer’s contract and checking in on old pal Jalen McDaniels coming off the bench for the Raptors (zero points and a minus-25 in last night’s loss), we’ll be watching what the Sixers can build upon after their encouraging performance against the Bucks. Of note is Tyrese Maxey’s continuing evolution as a passer after his eight-assist, zero-turnover line against the Bucks. With James Harden ramping up possibly indefinitely, Maxey’s ability to fill the role as lead passer is one of the primary developmental threads this season, in addition to affecting the Sixers’ roster build moving forward.
We’ll also see if Joel Embiid looks more comfortable on the offensive end after a poor seven-turnover performance in Milwaukee. The back-to-back scoring leader generally gets off to slow starts and only appeared in one preseason game, so it’s not terribly surprising for him to need a minute to round into form. Despite his offensive struggles, Joel’s defense was exemplary in Milwaukee; his increased focus on the defensive end within Nick Nurse’s scheme bodes well for the team’s prospects.
Elsewhere on the roster, will Kelly Oubre Jr. continue shooting 80 percent from the floor and blowing kisses? Can Tobias Harris hover around the 90 percent shooting mark for the entire season? We’ll find out as the Sixers look to move to .500 on the young season in the Great White North.